I am a commercial photographer living in Disraeli, a small town in Quebec. In 2020, I drove my Ford F150 truck from Quebec to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to shoot some resorts for a client – a 5,000 kilometer, seven day trip. My wife and three children flew in to meet me there on vacation. When COVID hit and international air travel was shut down, we piled everyone into the truck and made the return trip from Mexico to rural Quebec. It wasn’t the most relaxing road trip. Worried about border closures, we rushed home, only stopping to sleep at night. But once we got back, I began to toy with a new idea: Could I recreate that three-country transcontinental road trip in an electric vehicle?
I’ve wanted an electric vehicle since Tesla introduced its first model in 2008. But I stopped myself: Few electric models had enough room for a family of five and two car seats in the back. I took the leap in April 2022 and bought a roomy Hyundai Ioniq 5 Long Range five-seater for $52,000. It has a 77 kilowatt battery and can travel up to 300 miles on a single charge.
In those first few months, I drove my EV almost 20,000 kilometers in Quebec in those first few months. I knew I could take a longer trip – it drove as smoothly as my truck and I could sleep comfortably in its back seat in a sleeping bag. With an adapter, I was able to use the vehicle’s electricity to charge my computer and edit videos on long road trips.
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So I decided to drive solo from Quebec to Puerto Vallarta in the fall, camping in Utah and Arizona national parks along the way to shoot VR footage for my business. My wife and children would fly to and from Puerto Vallarta, while I would take a direct flight back to Quebec.
Driving an EV on such a long trip required a lot of planning. It takes nine hours to charge the car from 10 to 85 percent with a level 2 charger, which you can find at public charging stations, malls, hotels, airports, and restaurants. But with a Level 3 charger, available at some highway rest stops, public parking lots, city centers, and commercial areas, you could charge the same amount in just 25 minutes. I just needed to plan my trip to get to the level 3 charging stations, which I found using a route planning app called ABRP which showed me all the charging stations along my route. I found that I could drive up to 1,100 kilometers a day, wasting gas around noon when I stopped to stretch my legs or buy food. There would be a near dead zone in the 400 kilometer stretch between Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, but I was able to find a Level 2 charging station about 40 kilometers off the main road. It would be an inefficient detour, but he had no choice.
I started my journey in early October 2022, with an eight hour drive from Disraeli to just outside of Hamilton, Ontario. At night, I camped along the 401. On these types of long road trips, I do a type of camping called boondocking, which involves parking the car in an open space and pitching a tent or sleeping inside. of the automobile. I brought a V2L adapter, or “vehicle to charge,” which allowed me to use electricity from the car battery to power my computer and electric stove. If it got too cold at night, I put the car in utility mode and raise the temperature up to 20 degrees, a nice perk of driving a non-ICE vehicle. It only uses about 10 percent of the car battery without starting the engine.
Over the course of the trip, I set a goal of driving approximately 900 kilometers per day. I would usually leave around 7:30 a.m. and drive until about 4:30 p.m. Stopping about every 200 miles to walk, grab some food, or go to the bathroom, and have to charge the EV up to two or three times up to date. An average charge cost me $15-$20 at Circuit Electrique ports in Quebec and Petro Canada stations in Ontario. In the US, charging costs $25-$35 to get to a full battery, usually at electrify america and charging point charging stations I often stopped at Walmart, most of which have 350-kilowatt super-fast chargers that can charge a vehicle from 15 to 85 percent in just twenty minutes. They were never hard to find.
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I spent the five days driving through Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska before arriving at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. I visited other national parks (Bryce Canyon, Zion, the Grand Canyon) over the next few weeks, stopping to sleep at full-service campgrounds with electric charging ports. I shot VR content during the day and edited it on a picnic table at my campsite at night, drawing power from an extension cord attached to my vehicle. I was able to plug in my equipment at night to have some power for the next day. On October 31, after 27 days of travel, I left for Puerto Vallarta.
I drove from the Grand Canyon to Nogales, a city near the US-Mexico border. After crossing into Mexico, I drove south to Hermosillo, then Los Mochis, and then Mazatlán. Driving an electric vehicle in Mexico is more difficult: charging stations are far away and few in between, so I could only travel up to 450 kilometers a day. I found an app called Plugshare, which showed me charging ports at car dealerships and hotels like the Fiesta Inn and City Express where I stayed. It is too dangerous to enter Mexico due to the high crime rates, so I slept in hotels.
On November 3, after 31 days of travel, I finally met my family in Puerto Vallarta. We rented a condo for a couple of months, where I plugged my car into a 110 volt wall outlet. It was more than enough to enjoy the city. The following January, my family flew home and I began the journey back north. I drove from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara, then from Guadalajara to San Potosí, all in two days. That’s when I ran into a little problem.
During the 460-kilometer stretch from San Luis Potosí to Monterrey, he had mapped out two charging points along the route. Both were near El León, a small town an hour’s drive from San Luis Potosí. The first was a Tesla Level 2 charger, which would not work with my adapter. I drove a little further to a nearby car dealership. But it was Sunday and the dealership was closed. That’s the danger of driving an EV: finding yourself in a remote location, with no charging stations in sight.
I still had 250 kilometers to go to reach Monterrey, with only 260 kilometers of autonomy on the battery and no L2 or L3 charging points in between. At worst, I knew I could find a house and plug into its 110 kW charger, a common outlet found in houses. It would take me up to four days to fully charge my car with one of those, but just a few hours of charging could get me out of a bind.
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I had no choice but to try and do it. If I drove too aggressively or hit a steep grade on the road, I risked draining my battery in the middle of nowhere. So I got creative: I knew I could save fuel by driving behind a big truck. It’s a trick used by cyclists in the Tour de France: following another cyclist reduces the headwind and limits the energy needed to move forward. I drove my EV right behind a semi, trying to do the same. It worked: I arrived in Monterey with about seven percent of my battery remaining. After another charge, I drove to Dallas, then Springfield, Illinois, before crossing the border into London, Ontario, staying in hotels along the way because it was too cold to travel in January. My charging stops were more frequent this time due to cold weather: in hot weather, I was using 16 kilowatt hours, but when I got closer to Detroit, in January, I was averaging around 22 kilowatt hours. I finally made it home on January 19, completing my 15,700 kilometer journey.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about electric vehicles. People think they take a long time to recharge, but you can get a full charge in 20 to 25 minutes with a Level 3 charger. And taking an EV on a road trip makes financial sense, too. When I drove my truck to and from Mexico in 2020, I spent approximately $2,000 on gas. Charging my EV is $630 both ways. That is a great saving. Driving an EV also limits your ecological footprint, which feels good.
Drivers may have some anxiety about being stuck in the middle of nowhere, but the cost and environmental benefits of driving an electric vehicle outweigh the risks. I am already looking forward to my next trip.
—As told to Mathew Silver